Inaugural MLK Expo highlights small businesses

From left, small business owners Lola B. Morgan and Janaye Hardy put together the We Have a Dream MLK Expo in a few weeks with the goal of supporting small businesses and honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo courtesy of Boyzell Hosey.

ST. PETERSBURG — When COVID-19 hit the United States, no one could have predicted the devastation the pandemic would have on communities. With businesses forced to shut down, unemployment rising and a record number of families finding themselves in unprecedented need, two women decided they wanted to find a way to help.

After small business owner Janaye Hardy mentioned to a colleague her idea for an expo to support small businesses and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the two decided that they wanted to do more than talk about the idea — they wanted to make it a reality. So Hardy and fellow small business owner Lola B. Morgan got to work, and in just a few weeks, their event was coming to life.

The event was designed to support local businesses and highlight their services. It was also designed to provide a bit of fun and an outlet for families feeling the past year’s strains and stresses.

Throughout the afternoon, more than 150 people showed up to meet and support small businesses and, of course, have a little family fun. Photo courtesy of Boyzell Hosey.

The inaugural We Have a Dream MLK Expo took place Sunday, Jan. 17, at the Villas at Flagler Pointe Apartment Homes in south St. Pete. Throughout the afternoon, more than 150 people showed up to meet and support small businesses and, of course, have a little family fun.

Activities for the kids included a photo wall, Painting with a Twist, coloring images with positive affirmations and book readings.

“One of the model apartments was also set up with poster board demonstrations supplying information ranging from interview preparedness to tips on staying mentally healthy,” said Hardy, owner of Modern Mindset Life Coaching LLC.

Thirty-five small business vendors also participated, showcasing their goods and services on everything from skincare to life insurance, financial literacy and African-inspired fashions.

Along with the business showcase, several speakers were on hand, providing information on a variety of topics, from the importance of mental wellness to insights on how to improve overall health and nutrition.

From left, Emmanuel Lundy, 3, Breylynn Shorter, 5 and Antwone Lundy write their “I Have A Dream” letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. Photo courtesy of Boyzell Hosey.

Organizers said they felt an event like this was necessary to boost businesses and families suffering as a result of the pandemic.

“It was important to have this event to not only show the community that it is possible to succeed but to provide the necessary resources and positivity [for success],” said Morgan, owner of A Griot’s Corner.

Morgan and Hardy, both authors, said they knew this event was vital and believed that with the right safeguards, the community would come out and support it.

“We ensured that there were protocols in place for the open air space where we held the event,” Hardy said.  “We wanted to remove the fear factor. We took temperature checks and provided wristbands once that was complete and had masks and hand sanitizer available for all patrons.”

Both say they are discussing plans for a possible follow-up event next year and hope that this year’s event was as enriching for vendors and attendees as it was for them.

“We hope they felt inspired, supported and that they remembered that we are a community and it takes the support of all of us to thrive.”

To reach Karin Davis-Thompson, email kdavis-thompson@theweeklychallenger.com

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